3-and-Out: El-Bashir previews Redskins-Vikings
What: Redskins (3-5) at Vikings (1-7)
Where: Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
When: Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
TV: NFL Network and NBC4
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet: 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. (Redskins Kickoff will be aired on CSN+ and streamed live on CSNwashington.com)
MINNEAPOLIS—After a miserable start to the season, the Redskins are on the rebound. They’ve won two of their last three games and, tonight, face the weakest opponent remaining on their schedule: the one-win Vikings.
Given Washington’s 3-5 record, it’s a game Robert Griffin III and Co. simply must find a way to win. The Redskins are coming off a 30-24 overtime victory over the Chargers; Minnesota, meantime, suffered a last-minute 27-23 loss to the Cowboys.
Momentum certainly is on the Redskins’ side as they aim to pull off another second-half-of-the-season surge into the postseason. The bend-but-don’t-break defense blew a double-digit, second half lead against the Chargers but managed to recover with a clutch goal line stand. Pierre Garçon, Alfred Morris, DeAngelo Hall and other key players are performing at a high level. And, most important, Griffin’s overall play has improved, even if he has yet to do it on a consistent basis.
“Defense is playing well, offense is getting in a rhythm and we’ve won a couple of tough games,” Griffin said this week. “I think that’s why guys kind of feel like, ‘Hey, we can go on a run here and put ourselves in a good situation.”
Indeed, the Redskins, despite their many flaws, have the look of a team that’s primed for another charge. But, of course, it won't matter if they don’t take care of business tonight and send Adrian Peterson and the Vikings to a fifth straight loss.
Here are three keys to a Redskins’ win:
- Although Peterson probably won’t gain 2,000 yards for a second straight season, he still poses the single biggest threat to the Redskins, whose run defense has dropped to 22nd (116.6 yards per game) after ranking fifth (95.8) a year ago. Historically, Washington has done well against Peterson, limiting him to an average of 45 yards per game in four all-time meetings (he left one game with a devastating knee injury). “You have to get everybody involved,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “Everybody has to have a sense of urgency to get to the football because he’s got the unique ability to make people miss and, if you don’t have a lot of people around there, he’s going to get some big plays.”
- Which Griffin will show up? The one who struggled mightily in Denver? Or the one who helped the Redskins convert 71-percent of their third downs against the Chargers and completed all four of his pass attempts in overtime? RG3 has yet to back up one strong performance with another this season. But he should get that opportunity against the Vikings’ 29th ranked defense. “His best game was last week,” Shanahan said.
- The pivotal matchup could be the Redskins’ kick coverage units vs. Minnesota’s returners. The Vikings lead the league in returns for touchdowns this season, having taken back a punt and two kickoffs. Marcus Sherels returned the punt for a score, while rookie Cordarrelle Patterson returned both kickoffs. Patterson also leads the league with an average return of 36.7-yards per. The Redskins, meantime, have shown improvement in weeks but remain vulnerable in both areas. “He doesn’t do no playing around back there,” Redskins’ special teamer Trenton Robinson said of Patterson. “He sees a crease and he hits it. He has good vision because sometimes he’ll be one side of the field and he’ll bounce it back all the way across the field.”
Those are the big storylines. But here are three more interesting tidbits to help get you ready:
1—Speaking of special teams, the Redskins rank last in average starting field position (their own 22.6 yard line.)
2—The Redskins are as healthy as they’ve been all season with only seldom-used returner Chris Thompson (shoulder) is listed as questionable. In fact, with the exception of long snapper Nick Sundberg, the Redskins will have available every player they had penciled in as a starter last offseason.
3—Washington has yet to score an offensive touchdown in the first quarter this season. The last time they went through the season’s first eight games without doing so was 1951. Meantime, only the Jaguars, at -55, have a worse first quarter scoring differential this season than the Redskins’ -47.